June 19, 2017 at 4:01 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Graham to lie in state at Wilson Building
Jim Graham, Washington, D.C., gay news, Washington Blade

The body of gay former D.C. Council member Jim Graham will lie in state on Friday, June 23, between noon and 5 p.m. (Washington Blade file photo by Jeff Surprenant)

The body of gay former D.C. Council member Jim Graham will lie in state at the John A. Wilson Building, which serves as D.C.’s city hall, on Friday, June 23, between noon and 5 p.m.

Nyasha Smith, Secretary of the D.C. Council, which is in charge of the Wilson Building, said the viewing would be open to the public.

Graham, who served as the Council’s Ward 1 representative from 1999 to 2015, died June 11 following complications associated with an intestinal infection. He was 71.

The announcement of the Wilson Building viewing came after Mayor Muriel Bowser, several Council members, and U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) issued statements recognizing Graham for his years of work fighting for LGBT equality and leading the city’s fight against AIDS in the early years of the epidemic.

“Jim Graham was a trailblazing champion for LGBT equality and a towering hero in the fight against HIV/AIDS,” Pelosi said in a statement on June 16.

“In the darkest days of the AIDS epidemic, Jim’s determined leadership of the Whitman-Walker Clinic provided a beacon of compassion, healing and hope,” she said. “With his boundless energy and strength, Jim boldly confronted the stigma facing those with HIV and drove vital progress in treatment and support.”

Pelosi noted that as the representative of a district that includes San Francisco, which was hit hard by the AIDS epidemic, she had a chance to witness first hand Graham’s “passion, resourcefulness and leadership” in the 1980s when the two worked together on AIDS-related issues.

 In her own statement Mayor Bowser pointed out how Graham emerged as a strong advocate for all city residents.

“Jim Graham embodied D.C. values,” she said. “Jim was a fierce champion for Ward 1 and led the way in fighting to preserve and protect affordable housing in booming neighborhoods,” she added.

“He was also a tireless advocate for LGBTQ rights and access to health care,” Bowser said in a reference to Graham’s role as executive director of the Whitman-Walker Clinic from 1984 to 1999, which Graham is credited with transforming into the city’s largest private medical service provider for people with HIV/AIDS.

“Jim welcomed all neighbors and showed us that D.C.’s diversity alone does not make us great, but instead our embrace and celebration of our diversity does,” she said.

Lesbian activist and psychotherapist Patricia Hawkins, who served as Deputy Director of Whitman-Walker from 1989 to 2008, said not everyone is aware of what she called the profound impact Graham had in boosting D.C.’s response to AIDS.

“Jim Graham, your passing truly marks the end of an era,” Hawkins said in a written tribute to Graham. “You brought together a stigmatized, isolated and mortally threatened Gay community and led us into battle to wage ‘the good fight’ against the raging, merciless AIDS pandemic; and in the process, changed the world’s opinion of LGBTQ people.”

Hawkins added, “You took a small, fledgling Whitman-Walker free clinic and turned it into the largest comprehensive AIDS service provider in the country.”

Former D.C. Mayor and current Council member Vincent Gray (D-Ward 7) said Graham’s “deep commitment to serving and helping people cannot be overstated” in his role as a Council member and as head of Whitman-Walker.

“Jim was hardworking, brilliant, unique, always fascinating and a very skilled thoughtful legislator,” Gray said.

Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large) said Graham worked hard on issues like homelessness, juvenile justice, diversity, and public transportation.

“The District thanks him for his long public service and many accomplishments,” Mendelson said. “He left our city a better place.”

D.C. Council member Anita Bonds (D-At-Large) praised Graham for spending his “entire career” in service to the community at large.

“His compassion for people and his actions to uplift the poor and displaced is reflected in countless lives enriched across Ward 1 and the District,” Bonds said.

Council member Brianne Nadeau (D-Ward 1), who defeated Graham in the 2014 Democratic primary, ending Graham’s tenure on the Council, said Graham “leaves a legacy of fierce advocacy” on behalf of all city residents.

“I offer my deepest condolences to the friends and family of Council member Graham,” Nadeau said in a statement. “It was no secret that we did not see eye to eye,” she said, “but there was no question as to his deep love for the people of Ward 1.”

Aisha Moodie-Mills, president and CEO of the Victory Fund, which raises money to help elect LGBT candidates for public office, said Graham was one of the early candidates the Victory Fund backed for elective office.

“Jim was one of the few out LGBTQ city council members of a major U.S. city, and throughout his four terms proved representation is power,” Moodie-Mills said. “He became a fierce advocate for equality on the Council – strengthening discrimination protections, securing marriage equality and providing desperately needed resources to trans youth,” she said.

“Jim’s presence on the Council ensured the betterment of LGBTQ lives was always on the agenda, and District residents continue to benefit from his contributions,” Moodie-Mills said.

Transgender rights advocate Ruby Corado, founder and executive director of the D.C. LGBT community services center Casa Ruby, said Graham was a strong supporter of Casa Ruby both during his tenure as a Council member and afterward.

“His passing is a big loss for our city because he paved the way for a lot of the freedoms our community enjoys now,” Corado said.

Former Council member Jim Graham Farewell

Friday, June 23, 2017

Body will Lay-in-State

John A. Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20004

Noon-5 p.m.

Program begins at noon with the arrival of remains. Elected officials, dignitaries and special guests will deliver remarks. Bow ties encouraged.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Viewing and Religious Services

All Souls Unitarian Church, 1500 Harvard Street, N.W, Washington, D.C. 20009

10 a.m. Viewing

12 p.m. Religious services

Repast in All Souls Unitarian Church Multipurpose Room will immediately follow Mass services. Food and soft drinks will be available. Bow ties encouraged.

Flowers and cards may be sent to:

Bacon Funeral Home, 3447 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20010

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou


  • Rest in Peace.

    Thank you.

  • Rest in peace, dear soul — and thank you for your tireless efforts to help those who were felled by AIDS — one of which was my brother.
    Those of us who survived remember well all that you and those such as you have done to better not only victims of AIDS, but all of mankind, as well.

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